The land has fan in Dave Zentner

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 21, 2008 - 12:52 AM

At 72, Dave Zentner plies roads to encourage conservation and plies waters and woods for fish and food. He's that rare Minnesotan who combines green and game.

Dave Zentner
hide

Dave Zentner

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Awake at 3 a.m. Tuesday, Dave Zentner was on the road within an hour, bound for Minneapolis from his home in Duluth. The purpose of the trip, as usual, was conservation -- of land, water, forests, wildlife. Expenses incurred would be his.

The next day, Zentner was traveling again, this time headed north. A breakfast meeting in Duluth was followed by a drive to Virginia, Minn., then on to International Falls.

At each stop he distributed literature and lawn signs promoting the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment --dedicated conservation funding -- that will be on the ballot in November,

Zentner was interviewed by an International Falls radio station Wednesday evening before meeting with the Rainy Lake Sportfishing Club and driving home. He arrived in Duluth about midnight.

Just another couple of days in the life of this 72-year-old retiree. "It's all part of me paying back what this great state has given me,'' Zentner said.

Zentner is one of a relative handful of Minnesotans who can easily bridge the sometimes too-wide gap that separates "greens'' from the hook-and-bullet crowd.

With a fly rod, few in this state are more experienced. In March, he casts long lines into Lake Superior from the North Shore, looking for Kamloops. In April, he's on Wisconsin's Brule River fishing for steelhead, or the Namakan River for browns -- flowing water having seduced him many decades ago.

He fishes for walleyes, too, will watch a bobber for crappies and beats the water for muskies.

Come autumn, he's a sucker for any game bird with wings: ducks, geese, pheasants or grouse. He's chased them in South Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan, as well as in Minnesota.

"My life is built around hunting and fishing,'' he said.

Yet as a past national president of the Izaak Walton League, a lead player in the establishment of Voyageurs National Park, a onetime member of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency citizens board and a staunch defender of Lake Superior -- against taconite tailings, invasive species and ballast-dumping ships -- his "green'' credentials are well polished.

A retired insurance agency owner and financial planner, Zentner could be excused if he passed the rest of his days with his feet up, gabbing about old times.

His years of support for civic and conservation causes already have earned him two honorary doctorates, one from Northland College in Ashland, Wis., one from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. And he's been named National Conservationist of the Year twice, once by Outdoor Life magazine, once by Chevron.

Why not kick back, shoot a few birds, hook a couple of trout -- and call it good?

What makes Dave Zentner run -- still?

•••

It's 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, a venerable institution more than a century old, and Zentner is perched around a large oval table, one of a dozen or so men, one woman and a high school-age boy -- fishers and hunters each. Lance Ness, Zentner's co-chairman of the Ducks, Wetlands and Clean Water Rally, is also on hand.

The intent of the meeting is to educate the guests about dedicated funding and send them back to their businesses and homes with literature proclaiming its worth.

Why Zentner chose to rise so early and drive so far to speak to such a small group is a question that might stump even him.

Perhaps the answer can be traced to his childhood home of Clinton, Iowa, on the Mississippi River, where he and his schoolboy pal Denny McKinley first hunkered low, alert for Mississippi River wood ducks.

Or perhaps the answer lies in his decision now so many years ago not to attend the Twin Cities campus of the U but instead to enroll at UMD. It was there that a handful of Duluth men first showed a college freshman how to best spend his free time: hunting ducks on Squaw Lake near Deer River, chasing "partridge'' up the North Shore, fishing the St. Louis River for walleyes, smelting.

Some people gain appreciation of nature through birding, others by hiking, paddling or boating. For Zentner it was these and hunting and fishing.

"I love it all just as much as I did when I was a little kid,'' he said.

•••

Zentner's extensive conservation résumé was established while he built his insurance business in Duluth. Along the way, he took a few lumps, losing a customer here and there in the late 1970s when expansion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was a hot issue for the Izaak Walton League, and when Reserve Mining was forced to stop dumping taconite tailings into Lake Superior.

"But I've found that if you always tell the truth and treat those who disagree with you with respect, you'll be able to find common ground eventually,'' he said.

Tuesday morning in Minneapolis, and Wednesday in International Falls, Zentner offered a few truths.

Minnesota is in danger of losing its natural heritage, he said -- its clean waters, lands and the fish and wildlife that depend on them -- and with them the connection to these resources that for so many years have defined the state and its people.

"If we don't do something, more of us will try to divide up less, and the quality of our resources and outdoor experiences will continue to drift away,'' he said.

Friday, Zentner played hooky from his volunteer duties.

The sky was blue, the sun shone and a cool breeze drifted off Lake Superior.

Joined by Margo, the high school sweetheart he married when he was a UMD junior, he went looking for walleyes.

Hooking his boat to his GMC Yukon and leaving his road car, a Toyota Prius, in his garage, he crossed once again the sometimes too-wide gap separating greens from the hook-and-bullet crowd.

Dennis Anderson •  danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • The Dave Zentner file

    Sunday September 21, 2008

    Home: Duluth • Age: 72Occupation: Business owner, retired. Insurance and financial planning.Honors: Past national president, Izaak Walton League. Outdoor Life...

  • THE DAVE ZENTNER FILE<.b>

    Home: Duluth

    Age: 72

    Occupation: Business owner, retired. Insurance and financial planning.

    Honors: Past national president, Izaak Walton League. Outdoor Life Conservationist of the year. Two honorary doctorate degrees.

    Field pursuits: Bird hunter, angler. Particularly fond of rivers and trout fishing.

    Quote: "To be successful as a hunter, fisher or trapper you have to live close to the earth. You have to know about the woods and the animals and the rhythms of nature. I love the culture of hunting and fishing, and the men and women of hunting and fishing. I never cease to be excited about it.''

    DENNIS ANDERSON

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
LSU 79 FINAL
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close
Dave Zentner